Whether you live in an apartment building with dog potty rules or are trying to save your roses from your dog’s “water,” it’s nice to have a dog that will pee in one spot reliably.
Teaching your dog to pee in one spot isn’t necessarily very difficult, but it does take a level of dedication.
Since dog pee can cause brown spots, discolor wood, and even make kids sick, teaching your dog to pee in one spot is more than just a neat little trick for road trips!
Many dogs develop a generic “substrate preference” when they’re being potty trained. Basically, this means that they learn that certain surfaces are good to pee on, but not others.
If your dog learns that all grass is good to pee on (which is generally the mindset of most already potty-trained dogs), this can make potty spot training a bit tricky – but not impossible.
If you want to change the rules for your dog, you need to be able to supervise her and “pay” her when she gets it right. Let’s look at how to do that below!
You don’t like going pee in extra-gross Porta-Potties, do you?
Likewise, your dog probably already has a few corners of your lawn that she likes best.
Most dogs like having soft, absorbent material for potty time. Both male and female dogs often like doing their business in tallish grass, and male dogs are especially fond of vertical surfaces to mark on.
But just like people, not all dogs are the same. Before teaching your dog to pee in one spot, try to figure out what potty spots she likes already. Pay attention to her current potty habits so that you can pick a place that mimics that setup!
Once you’ve got a potty spot picked out, keep it clean.
Scoop the poop regularly and ensure that your dog feels good about going to her new potty spot. This might require occasionally spraying the area down with water as well!
There are four main rules for teaching a dog to pee in one spot that you’ll have to follow:
1. No More Unsupervised Potty Breaks. The first – and most important – rule of teaching your dog to pee in one spot is that you’ve got to supervise. You can’t just let your dog out into the backyard without management!
2. Go On-Leash to the Potty Spot. For each pottying occasion, you’ll need to take your dog on-leash to the designated potty spot. This will allow you to lead your dog to the correct area. If your dog is running around free, you can’t control where she ultimately relieves herself.
3. No Freedom Until You’re Empty. Hang out in the “potty area” until your dog pees or poos. You can reward your dog for peeing with freedom (and a treat, see #4).
Many dogs don’t automatically pee right away when you let them outside unless it’s been a long time! Your best strategy is to simply go to the potty spot and wait.
Don’t prompt your dog, try to play with her, or talk to her at all. If she doesn’t go after a minute or two, go back inside and try again later.
If your dog isn’t potty trained yet, it’s best to return your dog to the crate between potty breaks. For already potty trained dogs, you can simply return back inside and wait a little while before going outside again.
4. Reward When She Pees. If your dog pees in the correct spot, give her a treat and reward her by letting her off-leash or setting out on your walk. It’s important to save the fun walk or playtime for after your dog pees in her spot.
For some dogs, this is all you have you do. They quickly learn that if they don’t pee where you take them, they can’t go for the rest of their walk, get a treat, or otherwise have much fun.
But it can be a pain to just stand there waiting for your dog to go pee. That’s where a potty command comes in handy.
The easiest way to ensure that your dog pees in one spot is to teach her to pee on cue.
You can establish the cue by rewarding your dog with a treat right after she pees for a few days. While you do this, pay close attention to what she does right before she pees.
My own dog generally starts sniffing, then slows down and raises his tail just before he raises his leg. Your dog will have her own little routine!
Once you know your dog’s routine and your dog knows that you’ll pay her for her pee, you can start to say the cue right before your dog starts to pee. When I was teaching my dog, I started saying, “Go potty!” right as he lifted his tail (the last step before he lifts his leg).
As soon as he peed, he got a treat. We repeated that for a few weeks, and now I’m able to say “Go potty!” to encourage him to lift his leg and empty himself. A real lifesaver on long car rides!
Many people make the mistake of getting too excited during this process. They prance, squeal, plead, and generally try to convince their dog to pee.
Being exciting is generally a bad idea when potty training a dog, because you’re more likely to distract your dog into playtime than convince her to pee. Instead, try to be very boring and matter-of-fact.
Of course, things often sound easier than they actually are. You might get lucky with smooth sailing from here on out, but you might not.
Here are a few solutions to the most common hiccups in this training plan:
Marking. Male dogs generally dribble pee at strategic locations around their turf. Generally, this is considered to be more of a community newsletter than a possessive “This is Mine” declaration. Some trainers call it “pee-mail.” If marking around your yard is an issue, a belly band can help reduce marking.
You can certainly teach male dogs to pee on cue, but they often still attempt to mark with small amounts of urine elsewhere. Luckily, a few drops of urine is much less likely to cause discoloration than a full bladder!
Going Elsewhere. If your dog is consistently peeing in a non-designated potty spot, you need to go back to the drawing board. Don’t scold, hit, or spook your dog. Just clean it up and try again next time. Keep your dog on leash and reward her heavily when she goes pee in the right spot.
Not Peeing at All. Some dogs don’t seem comfortable peeing on a leash or with an audience. Or maybe your dog just doesn’t have to go right now (or doesn’t like your spot). But you’re late for work already! Rather than getting frustrated, simply walk your dog around a bit in the designated area. Ignore her other than trying to keep her moving a bit. If your dog’s leash is the issue, you might need to get a long leash and deal with that problem first.
If you don’t want your dog peeing all over your lawn, it might be easiest to just walk your dog to empty her bladder.
Sidewalk medians, local parks, and even deserted lots are all great dog potty places. This is especially helpful for dogs that don’t like to pee right away on their walk.
Since teaching your dog to pee in one spot is rarely foolproof (and still requires you to go outside with your dog on leash), you might as well get the exercise and take your dog around the block.
You can also use sprays to reduce brown spots in your lawn or chewable tablets to keep your dog’s pee from ruining your lawn in the first place. Also, opting for hearty grass better suited for dog activity isn’t a bad idea either.
Unfortunately, neither of these solutions deals with the poo problem (or potential disease from your pup’s pee).
How did you teach your dog to pee in one spot? We’d love to hear how you keep your lawn brown-spot free!
Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the IAABC. She has worked in private dog training, group classes, and shelter behavior modification work for most of her adult life. She now works as an online dog behavior consultant with Journey Dog Training.